WASHINGTON - U.S. Health and Human Services
Secretary Tommy Thompson has been chosen as chairman of the board of the
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,
AIDS campaigners and sources said on Thursday.
Thompson, who will keep his job at HHS, will chair board meetings and work
to raise the profile of the fund, the sources said. They said he would be
formally named to the new job on Friday at the fund's headquarters in
A spokesman at HHS said he could not confirm the report.
AIDS activists said the decision was ironic. They have criticized
President Bush for his decision to give the fund less
than requested. In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, Bush
announced a $15 billion, five-year plan to fight AIDS in Africa and Haiti,
but designated only $1 billion of it to go to the fund.
The rest will be used in separate programs the United States will set up
independently with 14 chosen countries.
"Secretary Thompson will be chosen to chair the board of the Global Fund
to Fight AIDS a day after a generous presidential AIDS initiative largely
sideswiped the Global Fund," Asia Russell, director of international
policy at AIDS lobby group Health GAP, said in a statement.
"If the U.S. is going to buy the chairmanship, they could at least use
real money," she added.
The fund has asked for $3.5 billion a year from the United States. The
United States gave $200 million last year and Bush's plan would add $200
million a year.
The current chairman of the board of the fund is Chrispus Kyonga, the
former health minister of Uganda. A source said Thompson was the only
candidate to replace Kyonga.
Dr. Richard Feachem is executive director of the fund. A British citizen,
Feachem was a professor at the University of California at Berkeley before
taking up the job.
The fund was set up in 2001 as a kind of global war chest against the
three infectious diseases by the United Nations and the
G8 group of industrialized nations. They noted that AIDS, TB and malaria
kill nearly 6 million people each year, mostly in developing nations.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said $7
billion to $10 billion a year is needed to fight AIDS. The U.N. estimates
that $2 billion is needed a year to fight TB and malaria.
As of December 2002, the fund had collected $2.15 billion in pledges from
governments, corporations, foundations and individuals.
Controversy has swirled around it since its creation, with international
agencies, governments and private groups arguing over who should control
it and how it should operate.
More than 36 million people, the vast majority of them in Africa, today
have AIDS or are infected with HIV, the virus that
causes the disease.